The Feminine Mystique Questions and Answers
by Betty Friedan

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Are there any thoughts on how Betty Friedan's work on the oppression of women can be tied to the oppression of African Americans?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a very interesting question.  There are some points of convergence between Friedan's thoughts and the idea of African- Americans' fight for recognition and freedom.  The first area where Friedan's thoughts can find resonance in the struggle for African- Americans would be in her distillation of identity.  Essentially, Friedan argues that part of what it means to possess a full and complete notion of identity is to appeal to Maslow's hierarchy.  This idea indicates that social dictates are a poor substitute for an individual's understanding of self.  Just as Friedan argues that patriarchal society "dictates" what women can and should be, causing the fundamental rift between what individuals feel and what society tells them to feel.  Friedan's writing depicts the struggle for women to be acknowledged, and their voices of experience validated.  In this, there is a sense of convergence with the idea of the Civil Rights Movement, which sought the same thing from White society.  The point shared in both is that society has to adopt a paradigm that enables change from what has been to what can be and what should be.  It is here where change is evident, and at this point where transformation is possible.  In doing so, there is a clear and powerful understanding of how Friedan and the Civil Rights struggle for people of color can be tied to one another.

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